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Bulldogs, Tigers start title battle

Photo Courtesy: UAAP Varsity Channel

No team is unbeatable.

A defiant University of Santo Tomas is not backing down from the challenge of dragging the mighty and unbeaten National University off the throne when the best-of-three University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s volleyball finals series begins today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The two proud teams collide in an action-packed Game 1 clash at 2 p.m.

While the three-peat-seeking Bulldogs advanced outright to their eighth straight championship appearance after a sweep of the 14-game elimination round, the No. 2 seed Tigers needed to get rid of Far Eastern University in the stepladder semifinals last Sunday.

Boosted by its straight sets win over the Tamaraws to reach the finals for the first time in 11 years, UST is convinced that it can pull off an upset over a team that has been invincible in its last 32 games.

“We know we can beat them and they are beatable,” leading Most Valuable Player contender rookie Josh Ybañez said.

But it will be a gargantuan task for the Odjie Mamon-coached squad as the Tigers fell prey to the Bulldogs in the elimination round — both are four-setter affairs.

“We just have to trust our system and just be stronger inside the court. We’ll use our elimination round defeats against them as inspiration to strive harder,” Ybañez added.

Mamon as well as Jay Rack de la Noche will rejoin the Tigers following their stint in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia.


‘We just have to trust our system and just be stronger inside the court.’


UST will also pin its hopes on Rey de Vega, Rainier Flor, Emman Dedoroy and setter Lorence Cruz to deliver the goods.

NU, seeking to win its fifth title overall, has taken advantage of its long break to rest and prepare well to defend the title in the division’s return after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

“I’m not really worried about what they say that long layoffs could put rust on one’s team. We actually see it as an advantage because we had time to rest and recover and prepare for UST,” Bulldogs head coach Dante Alinsunurin said.

All eyes will be on top setter Owa Retamar as he tries to lead NU to a perfect season. The then Marck Espejo-led Ateneo de Manila University was the last team to rule the tournament unscathed back in 2017.

Nico Almendras, rookie hotshot Buds Buddin, Ken Malinis and towering Congolese Oben Mukaba are expected to bring the firepower for the Bulldogs.

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